An unprecedented surge in first-time buyers roiling the housing market is, say estate agents, an unexpected consequence of the Covid pandemic.
Across Belfast, demand for homes is outstripping demand as more buyers gear up for their first house purchase.
Colin Moran of property peopleni.com says the rush to buy is partly a reaction to the lockdown blues being experienced by many people.
"I am of the opinion that the current pandemic has a huge part to play in the behaviour of the housing buying public," he told belfastmedia.com.
"After months of lockdowns and restrictions people have had more time than ever at home. During this period they have reflected on their housing situation and decided to take action on making the move that previously they had only thought about."
Colin says that many couples — especially civil servants on fixed incomes — also find themselves surprisingly better off as the crisis continues because they have not been able to spend money on holidays abroad or eating out or entertainment. Now they are anxious to put that money to work.
"At the start of the lockdowns, people postponed important life events such as getting married or moving house due to the uncertainty they felt around the future.
"However, as they have adjusted to the new normal, their mindset has changed and rather they putting off important life events they how feel compelled to make that move.
"You see couples determined to make sure that cancelled wedding goes ahead or that trip to Spain is delayed no longer. Their actions are actually being motivated by the uncertainty they have endured for so long.
"This crystallisation of important life decision-making has, in my opinion, greatly influenced the return of first time buyers to the property market."
Jennifer Canning, head of sales at Northern Property says the number of people in West Belfast opting to buy rather than to rent is "staggering". "Last week, we closed ten FSB - First Time Buyers - purchases and yet the demand keeps growing," she said.
"We identify two reasons for this rapid growth in the first-time buyer market," she explained. "For sure, it's linked in part to the fact that during lockdown potential purchasers have been able to cutdown their spending and save for a deposit. But it's also driven by the fact that many young people now see West Belfast as a great place to live. They see the Andersonstown Leisure Centre coming on-stream, Casement about to get the green light and, of course, we now have brilliant transport links."
Jennifer says banks have also been more willing to lend to first-time buyers. "A large part of that is that those making applications can pay their deposit as they have the money saved up," she added.
A recent Executive decision to provide funding for shared-ownership or co-ownership homes is also enabling more young people to get a foot on the housing ladder.
On 11 November, Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín announced plans to enable 4,000 people to afford to buy their own homes over the next four years, thanks to a £145m funding package to Co-Ownership.
Co-Ownership is the Department’s main delivery partner for affordable housing. It is a housing association that provides people with the opportunity to own their own home through its shared ownership products Co-Own or Rent to Own